American Church History Term Paper

Length: 6 pages Sources: 7 Subject: Mythology - Religion Type: Term Paper Paper: #28173692 Related Topics: Great Awakening, Evangelism, Awakening, The Awakening
Excerpt from Term Paper :

¶ … Great Awakening: The Beginning of Evangelicalism

The evangelicals started a new movement in the 1950s called new evangelicalism with a basis on human experiences that downplayed the role of doctrine and turned back on external church relations which in a way made it hard to differentiate evangelicalism from the mainstream Christendom. This movement has experienced several transformations since the Reformation from pietistic evangelism, fundamentalist evangelism, and classic evangelism to the more modern form known as evangelistic fundamentalism. Within the movement, the emergent church is increasingly growing to influence the postmodern culture. By advocating for diversity and pluralism, postmodernism in no way lays claim to any absolute principles in the new cultural dispensation. And so the new church primarily focuses on the younger generation. By attempting to reverse the church to the practices of the middle ages, it can only be possible to take a critical look at the spokespeople because its numerous aspects makes it difficult to distinguish as a single movement. Other voices within it are a complete departure from old traditions and eschatological ways of thought, soteriology and the role of scripture. Post-evangelicalism is in away related to the emerging church in Britain which has complimentary thoughts to that of theological Liberalism.

Many theologians and evangelical historians have attempted to argue that evangelism itself is a concept within Christianity which has underwent several changes in history and that is why it can be said that Hart's critiques is an exaggeration. Dorrien predicts that a progressive fourth type of concept is possible and it is a new change that he refers to as the post-conservative or progressive evangelical theology.

Robert Webber on the other hand reasons that the last 75 years of the twentieth century have been dominated by three movements of twentieth century evangelicals known as neo-evangelicalism, diversity evangelicalism and fundamentalism. As the twentieth century came to a close, the issues that initially caused separation between modernism and fundamentalism have grown less significant, and in the same way, evangelicalism changed into a movement that outlived the characteristics that defined it at the beginning.

Maybe it can be said that evangelicalism has many elements that operate simultaneously as Clack asserts because it is massive enough to allow several concepts to interplay peacefully.

The Emerging Church

The emerging church is another indefinable evangelical movement emerging within evangelicalism. Its leaders say it wants to fill the gap in the postmodern culture. For instance, one of the advocates of atheism, Gregory Boyd argues that this new approach in philosophy and culture is a threat to old evangelicalism.1

Philosophers say there have been three major changes with the initial being pre-modernism experienced in the world of Western civilization before the 18th Century. It had strong beliefs about the supernatural elements of the universe including God, demons, Satan pixie, goblins and other creatures. In actual fact, what constituted reality was what was practically visible in the natural world as well as in the realms of the supernatural? The universe was purposely defined by a god.1

Modernism was an influence felt between 1780 and1989 and it was defined by Enlightment that employed reason as a way of disapproving and ending religious myths. The acceptance and existence of objective reality was accepted as the right norm overriding the Supernatural which was taken away or deconstructed. The fact that human intelligence could be relied on to penetrate the mysteries of the universe and solve human problems gained currency. It is refutable all claims about the authority of the Bible, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of original sin, miracles and the idea of revelation made modernism unfriendly to Christian theology. Postmodernism which gives credence to divergence and pluralism without placing any premium on certainties...


A while back in the 1990s it was realized by the Leadership Network that churches were becoming unattractive to the younger people between 18 and 35 years. This forced Brad Smith the president of Leadership Network to take time to find out how churches were ministering to this new generation or X, as they are known. By liaising with Zondervan Publishing, they organized a series of conferences. By creating Emergent YS (Youth Specialties) as a branch of Zondervan Publishing House, they have managed to publish over 20 books under the auspices of Mark Oestreicher. This was after Dough Pagitt and McLaren adopted the name emerging church. In recent times, a new entrant, Baker Book House has accepted to publish new titles by the emerging church. This new movement is thus chiefly concerned with the growth and expansion of the church in the postmodern culture and finding ways of retaining young people in the movement. It is therefore not wrong to say that the emerging church is neither a movement nor not. In the sense that it has characteristic of a movement it can, however, be said to be one since it has a hierarchy of officials beginning with the pastor downwards, a name, and edifice, a cause and relevant literature. But through diversity in its structure, it cannot be adequately described as a movement and that is why some of its adherents prefer to say they only get involved in discussions rather than in a movement.1

Revivalism by Jonathan Edwards

The next body of literature is dominated by thoughts and recommendations of Edwards on Revivalism and the Great Awakening and on the influences he exerted on the subsequent revival movement's history. His involvement like that of Homiletic goes back to the 18th Century. The body of literature on this topic saw meteoritic rise in the 1950s and 1960s which more than doubled in the 1970s

. It is speculative that the Bicentennial of 1976 was an important addition to knowledge in this area which associated religion and the movement. This should also include the publication of the Edwards Edition of the Great Awakening in 1972 which also contributed to studies in this area. Interestingly, volumes associated with the Great Awakening and Volume 2 Religious Affectations relating to revival are still the best selling in this class. The study of the Great Awakening was also spurred by books by writers like Cedric Cowing, Edwin Gaustad, David Lovejoy, David Harlan, J.M. Bumsted and John De Wetering, amongst many more. These more historical treatises on the role of religion on the establishment of USA were aided by a smaller number of religious writings that accepted Edwards's examples and thoughts as the beginning of another revival. This included writings in magazines like Moody Monthly, Christianity Today and publications by Martin Lloyd-Jones, Richard Lovelace and Iain Murray.4

Jonathan Edwards and Justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ

A primary presentation of the tenets of salvation encompass spiritual transformation from life to death or regeneration, faith which always comes first, being declared righteous or justification and undergoing physical transformation or glorification. While regenerating, a person is never justified but is transformed so that belief in Christ takes place followed by justification. Once this takes place wither independently or at the same time, sanctification follows and later the saints who undergo this stages are translated into incorruption and eternity by glorification. Though these stages are often kept distinctly separate, Jonathan Edwards treats them as one

Edwards argues that all human beings share a common heritage with Adam in both a spiritual and practical way. Since Adam's sin is regarded as a communal sin affecting all humanity, we are all linked to him, according to Edward, in unrighteousness and therefore we are naturally sinful. Without God infusing His spirit into the soul in order to regenerate the person it is almost impossible to morally submit to God, choose or love. The work of the spirit is to influence our motivations in order for us to submit to Christ through faith5.


Many of Whitefield's theological ideas and practices are consistently uncompromising although he was willing to include others who liked Christ as he did despite the doctrinal or denominational differences they had. This radical change in ecumenical evangelism is indicative of his spiritual insights and serves to strengthen his refusal to compromise. He never allowed outside factors to stop him from communing with faithful followers of Christ. He forged closer ties with a large body of other denominations and made it a habit of freely relating to men and women of different social status by preaching to those from the highest social classes or the aristocracy, diverse groups including miners and the very poor

.Uncharacteristic of sentiments during his day, he was concerned about the spiritual well-being of people of different races and classes, and he would have been in perfect accord with Apostle Paul's sentiment that there was no difference between Jew and Greek, uncircumcised or circumcised, slave, Scythian or freeman since all are in Christ…

Sources Used in Documents:


1 Pettegrew, Larry D. "Evangelicism, Paradigms, and the Emerging Church." The Master's Seminary Journal, 2006: pp 159-175.

2 Gary Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1998) pp 2-3.

3 Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001) p 110.

4 Minkema, Kenneth J. "Jonathan Edwards in the Twentieth Century." Journal of the evangelical theological society, 2004: pp 659-87.

Cite this Document:

"American Church History" (2014, November 17) Retrieved August 11, 2022, from

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"American Church History", 17 November 2014, Accessed.11 August. 2022,

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